Friday, December 30, 2005

Lovecraftian Story

First, thanks! to a special friend who has assisted me through my technofumbles of modern blogging and code.


Now, just for you, fellow bloggers. I did this a few years ago. It's a quick read. Hope you enjoy.


Recently, due to some repairs, I had to trudge through numerous inherited items, long left unattended. One was a trunk of my grandmother's. Lifting it the hinge snapped off from ages of decay spilling some of the contents. Rifling through her letters brought to my mind her fascination with the occult all those years. Among the dried correspondence was an uncancelled 3-cent stamp dating back to Franklin Roosevelt's administration. Having nowhere else to put it, thinking it might have some small value, I placed it in my wallet and promptly forgot about it.

Several days later, after a long day at the office, I was in no mood for television, so I pulled out my worn copy of Lovecraft. So familiar were the stories, his biography, I took to reading between the lines.

"Ah, that was after his visit to Elizabeth, New Jersey. Hmm, that smacks of his correspondence with Loveman."

I scratched my head through The Shunned House wishing that I, like so many had in their day, could pick up a pen and jot down a note to the old fellow now gone from us nearly seventy years.

I thought, then, why not? It could be a fun exercise!

I ran to my word processor and typed:

Dear Mr. Lovecraft:

I am a fan of yours. I have read all of your stories many times, but the Shunned House is a particular favorite. As an amateur writer, I wondered how you came to use your sources. For instance, how much did Charles Skinner's The Green Picture influence this tale?

I am sure you are busy, but I do look forward to receiving a reply.

Sincerely –

I placed the printout into an envelope. I chuckled to myself, but to where shall I send this? Of course, Swan Point, the cemetery in Rhode Island! I scrounged a reference book for the address and scrawled it across the envelope. Then I remembered the stamp! How fitting: a stamp of his own era for a letter to my hero. I licked the old glue and fixed it to the letter.

The next evening, I came home feeling foolish at such a childish trick, chalking it up to the stress of running the business. The letter was not on my office desk, so I asked my wife had she seen it. Indeed, she had glanced at it, thinking it real mail she dropped it in the letter office with numerous bills.

Well, I thought, it is either lost for good or will return with postage due. Someone at the post office will get a weird expression when they see that.

Several more days went by but business headaches continued. Arriving home, finding the mail still in the box, I sorted it out. Sandwiched between three catalogs, a musty, yellowed envelope spilled out.

I looked over the article with a scrawled, smudged return address. Opening it, the cribbed handwriting was unmistakable.

Dear -,

I read with fond appreciation your kind comments to an old man such as I. That my trifles entertain pleases me to no end. As to your excellent question, Charles Skinner's book and the mentioned story within are quite familiar to me. Most of the stories I knew, before reading that edition, through my aunts and my late grandfather. The incidental colorings I picked from time to time to give depth to my stories should in no way distract you from the main plot. Feel free to write any time, as I am

Yr Obdt. Servnt.
H. P. Lovecraft.

I nearly laughed aloud. Some secretary at the funeral office was attracted by my quaint letter, therefore was pulling a rib on me. So be it! I hustled to the computer, typed out a brief letter, and sealed the envelope. I rifled through our postage drawer and fixed a stamp to the envelope, dropping the letter off in a letterbox on the way to work the next day.

Several more days passed, when a crisp letter from Rhode Island arrived. The form letter with letterhead inside was briskly to the point.

Dear -,

Our office is flooded with letters to the late Mr. Lovecraft. Honestly it is a distraction to our business, but we want to be courteous, so we state this fact. Should another of your letters arrive to our office, it will be destroyed unopened.

The Management

Stunned, I could not fathom what was happening. Then a cold chill ran through me. I had used an old stamp the first time, but a modern one the second time. No doubt the old stamp was flagged by one of the office pranksters before the usual secretary opened the mail. I could still have a bit of fun if another old stamp might be lying in grandma's old trunk.

After sorting through miscellaneous dried four-leaf clovers, birthday cards and a 1949 calendar, I found two more uncancelled stamps.

It was late, but I sat down and printed a new copy of my former letter, sealed it and stamped it. I sat it aside without addressing it.

In a hurry the next morning, it slipped my mind to finish the process, but coming home that evening, I discovered that it had been mailed, unaddressed, along with numerous weekly bills.

Ah! What a loss, I thought. My gag would have to wait for the last stamp.

Life became busy, what with cost escalations to fight at work, so days zipped by. Arising late on Saturday, I pulled the mail out of the box. There, a wizened old letter appeared mixed with a lawn service bill and a request for a charitable donation.

It was quite padded with seven cents of postage affixed. The friable paper gave quickly to expose the contents, nearly eight pages front and back of the tiniest, abbreviated lettering I could imagine. In some cases, the writing expanded down and across the margins. It took hours, but I finally made out 99% of the scribbles that answered nearly every imaginable question I could have considered. In one portion of the text, an outline for a new story was exposited.

I sat flabbergasted. Everything appeared authentic to the withered paper. My name appeared several times through the text, each time I encountered it with a shudder of goose flesh. Once the old writer coined a pun on my name, as I knew he often did as a harmless endearment.

Mulling over this weird event, I wondered who might be intercepting my letters and imparting such intensive detail into them. I sat looking at the ancient paper. This person, knowledgeable about Lovecraft beyond my ability, able to fake ancient documents, a forger of handwriting, someone watching closely for my letters before the usual routine would intercept and destroy them. This no longer was a game. Whoever this person was, they had my address.

With this troubling concern on my mind, I finally went to bed, but slept fitfully. The reason was the nightmare.

Setting in a circle like Christ and his disciples, were Lovecraft in his Virgil Finlay portrayal, and twelve other men. Their names were clear, all once young correspondents of Lovecraft, all his disciples, but all very deceased. Below, I lay in my opened grave: arms folded, coffin lid removed, my corpse immobile.

One said, "Damned amateur! Who does he think he is corresponding with you? Away with him, let us sick the legions of Hell upon him."

"Please," Lovecraft defended me, "his correspondence is refreshing after all these years of silence though his pedant behaviour has me annoyed. His prodding has led me to a new story, my first in some time. Leave the gentlemen to my good designs."

I awoke with a start, sweat pouring from my brow, the sheets soaked as if I had a raging fever, but instead I shook with fear. It took a great while to realize it was but a dream – it had seemed so real, so terrifying.

After about two weeks, the incident faded in memory. The strange thing, is that each time I went into my home office, the stamp lay on my desk. Once I threw the thing away, yet the next evening it remained. The last night, not only did I find the stamp lay out, but an envelope with it. The computer was on, the cursor blinking on a new document.

In a trance, I began to type:

Dear Mr. Lovecraft:

This is my last stamp. I will send no more letters to you. If you are truly H. P. Lovecraft, long deceased, send me a sign that this is real. If I receive anything other than a convincing response, I shall be forced to contact the authorities of this impersonation.

Sincerely -

My hand trembled as I applied the stamp. I refused even to address the thing. There was a compulsion, though, to immediately place the envelope in a corner letterbox, one that I followed through on.

Pulling back into the driveway after mailing the letter, I noticed the mailbox opened. I walked to it. Peering tentatively inside, it glowed eerily phosphorescent. I reached my hand into the gaping mouth and extracted a single post card.

Not able to wait to look at it inside, I kneeled, held it in the beam of the headlights. The obverse side was a crude cartoon of a cemetery with ancient gravestones. On the reverse were simple lines.

Dear -:

It was good to hear from you again. So sorry you cannot correspond more, but the invitation is open to visit me at any time – in fact I insist! Until our meeting, which will certainly be soon, I remain,

Yr Obt Servnt,
H. P. Lovecraft

I barely held the card in my shaking hand. I reversed the postcard to look closer at the crude cartoon. One tombstone, simpler than the rest, stated merely "H. P. Lovecraft".

I looked closer. Behind the marker was a hideous thing that made me begin to weep at the loss of my sanity. There, standing with a sickening grin, its slobbering teeth exposed, was a long-snouted, froggish beast, it's gnarled finger pointing directly toward - me.


I.R. Derbyshire said...

Seems to be an awful lot of *** up at the top there....

..just kidding.

In all seriousness, I liked the story, obviously there was a quite a bit of Chris Perridas in the story. I'm certain I picked out facts from your real life in the mix, but doesn't that always add a sense of realism when you can detect reality in a work of fiction? Or is this a work of fiction?

Good story, Chris, I liked the postcard.

gugon said...

Excellent story!


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